|Born||22 October 1958|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Virgil Donati (born 22 October 1958) is an Australian drummer, composer and producer. He holds the drum sticks in the traditional style and is also proficient at the keyboard. Donati formed Planet X with Derek Sherinian and was the band's principal composer on all their albums. He also performed in Melbourne with Jack Jones (Irwin Thomas) in a Van Halen tribute band known as Hans Valen before inviting Jones into Donati's own bands The State and Southern Sons. Donati is widely regarded as one of the most technically advanced drummers of all time.
Virgil Donati was born in Melbourne, Victoria of Italian descent. He got his first drumset at age 2. He started playing soon after with his father's showband, and kept on doing these shows until he was around 6 years old. At age 6 he started taking piano lessons. He joined his first major rock band and signed with his first major record label at the age of 15. The band was first called Cloud Nine, but was later renamed Taste, with whom he recorded 3 albums. Soon after at age 16, Donati left school focusing mainly on the drums, but also piano. At age 19 Donati travelled to the U.S. to study with Philly Joe Jones, and at Dick Groves School in Los Angeles. He also took lessons from snare drum specialist Murray Spivack and Rob Carson.
Donati returned to Australia at the age of 21. He then performed jazz with Allan Zavod and Brian Brown, and played with Peter Cupples' band. Before moving to Los Angeles, Donati furthered his success by performing with the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, Tina Arena, Jon Stevens and visiting international acts like Melissa Etheridge, Branford Marsalis, and Tribal Tech. Virgil also recorded and toured with his own bands Southern Sons, Loose Change and On The Virg. From the late 1990s and onwards Donati recorded and toured with acts like Derek Sherinian (with whom he formed the progressive fusion outfit 'Planet X') Steve Vai, Allan Holdsworth, Michel Polnareff and Soul SirkUS.
With his father's choice of records, including Louie Bellson and Buddy Rich albums, Donati quickly became a fan of those great jazz drummers, trying to emulate their solos. The first rock drummer to make a big impact on him was Ian Paice of Deep Purple. Donati said, "I was blown away with his playing, his clarity. Back in the early '70s he seemed to be an articulate drummer with a lot of soul in his playing. I loved his power and strength and the way he articulated his phrasing. I loved his approach." In a Modern Drummer magazine article of June 1999, Donati prefers playing with traditional grip. He says there, "I grew up playing traditional grip and persevered with it even under the physical duress of rock bands. I decided that it's just how I wanted to play. Now it's very natural for me. Besides, I've surmounted all the problems of being able to play with enough power. Traditional grip does not limit me in any way. There are certain movements around the drumset that feel good with traditional, and believe it or not, there're certain things I'll play that feel better in my left hand than in my right. That said, I would not necessarily recommend traditional grip. Frankly, I think the disadvantages involved with traditional grip outweigh the advantages. It is a far more difficult grip to maintain and to develop power with. Any student starting out would be better off focusing on matched. But for some reason, maybe just because it just used as much any more, traditional grip seems to be more hip."
Virgil Donati is widely regarded as one of the most technically advanced drummers of all time. Bassist Bryan Beller, after performing with Donati and Mike Keneally, described him in a blog post with the following words: "Imagine the technical accuracy of Mike Mangini, the off-the-rails phrasing of Vinnie Colaiuta, the beat-displacement of Dave Weckl, and the rock sensibility of Tommy Aldridge, and that's pretty much Virgil Donati—all of it, all at once, all the time. Talk about being taken along for a ride". Ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy called Donati "super, super technical" and cited him as a drummer he "can't replicate", saying that "[he] does things that I physically can't do."
Donati's piano playing can be heard on his 2016 album 'The Dawn of Time' as well as in various online videos where he's playing the like of Debussy and Ravel.
Blo (re-released as Titania's Dream with Peter Bowman)